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Ballylinan selector Kieran Kelly captained Laois to All Ireland minor glory in 1997.

Ballylinan selector Kieran Kelly captained Laois to All Ireland minor glory in 1997.

Kieran Kelly hoping for greatest day with Ballylinan

By John Harrington

Kieran Kelly is one of only three men to know how it feels to captain a Laois All-Ireland winning (A) football team.

He lifted the Tom Markham Cup in 1997 when Laois defeated Tyrone in the All-Ireland Minor Football Final.

That was a special moment, but the Ballylinan man is in no doubt it would be put in the shade this Sunday were he to help lead his club to a first ever Laois County Senior Football title as team trainer.

“Hand in heart I would say yes, it would,” Kelly told GAA.ie. “These are the lads that I've kicked with all my life, these are the lads that I've grown up with.

“You ask any club person who has had success at county to compare both, and they'd put the club at the top and I'm no different.

“The club is everything, it's the heart of the community. Please God we'll win it on Sunday. Were we to, words couldn't express what that would mean.

“Even the older generation in the club, the lads that are there, everyone is just so looking forward to Sunday.

“The whole street is done in bunting and there's flags everywhere. It's just a great buzz so it is to be back there.”

Ballylinan were last in a Laois County Final 30 years ago when they were well beaten by Portaloise.

The face the same opponents on Sunday and will go into the game as underdogs, but Kelly insists they’ll face the challenge fearlessly.

“Yeah, look it, it's an eleventh county final in a row for Portlaoise so we're under no illusions about the task at hand, it's a massive, massive challenge. We're going to go in there showing no fear and we're going to give it a hell of a ratttle.

“I think with Stradbally winning last year, that gave a lot of hope to a huge amount of other clubs. Even before that, I think St. Joseph's drew with them in the quarter-final last year and took them to a replay. That gives smaller clubs like ourselves great heart, so it does.”

Ballylinan have played some great football on the way to Sunday’s Final. They’re a fast, skilful team, and in Gary Walsh have a prolific scorer who’s capable of being a match-winner on the day.

“Gary is a serious forward and he'll take watching," says Kelly. "We've great youth and we've the experience as well and that's a great mixture. The lads are working extremely hard.

“You've the likes of Alan Farrell who've been in with the county for the past couple of years, Gary Walsh has been in there too, Jamie Farrell was in there last year and they're all bringing the stuff they were learning with the county back to the club and that's just a huge benefit to everyone.

“When I was first asked to get involved this year the first words out of my mouth were there's a county title in that team. That was back last January.

“I believed all along that there is a county title in this team.”

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